Fair use is an important component to U.S. copyright law that empowers individuals to make use of copyrighted materials without asking or paying for permission for certain socially useful purposes, such as scholarship, research, and education. It should come as no surprise that libraries, being heavily involved in such endeavors, often rely on fair use to accomplish many day-to-day activities in support of teaching, learning, and research.

Unfortunately, misunderstandings and uncertainty about copyright and fair use may prompt librarians and administrators to avoid some projects or limit services that could otherwise qualify as fair use. Librarians are not the only ones to find themselves in this predicament, but the good news is that community-specific best practices help dispel fair use myths and provide guidance within a particular discipline.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), in partnership with the Center for Social Media and the Washington College of Law at American University, has developed several resources to help librarians and library administrators understand and apply fair use as it pertains to academic and research libraries:

Lastly, no fair use toolkit is complete without a checklist to help analyze the four factors of fair use:



By Jessica Meindertsma, Rights Management Specialist at The Ohio State University Libraries’ Copyright Resources Center